Summary: It's a part of every church, those who are there on Sunday without their spouse. What happens when only one believes?
“Love and Marriage, Love and Marriage, goes together like a horse and carriage”, at least that’s what the song says. You know as well as I do that isn’t always the reality. Sometimes the horse doesn’t want to pull the carriage, and sometimes the carriage doesn’t want to be pulled.
For the last seven weeks, we’ve been focusing on love and marriage. We’ve looked at what makes a biblical marriage, sex God’s wedding gift, the language of love, leading your children to Christ, had some tips for loving our kids and last week we looked at honouring our parents.
We are tying up this week and going in a little different direction.
In the scripture that was read earlier, Paul is giving some direction to folks who were married to spouses who didn’t believe as they believed. This appears to have been an issue for the past 2000 years.
An example is given in Acts sixteen, it is here that Timothy is introduced into the New Testament narrative. Timothy was a protegee of Paul who would eventually go on to pastor the church in Ephesus and two of the New Testament books are letters that were written by Paul to Timothy.
And when Luke is introducing Timothy into the story he makes this observation. Acts 16:1 Paul went first to Derbe and then to Lystra, where there was a young disciple named Timothy. His mother was a Jewish believer, but his father was a Greek.
Did you catch that? His mother was a Jewish believer, but his father was a Greek.
It’s not that Luke had anything against Greeks, you see it wasn’t what Luke said about Timothy’s father it was what was left unsaid.
He was a Greek, not a Greek believer just a Greek. And so, we have a household where one spouse is a Christ follower and one isn’t and the challenges that are posed in such situations can never be fully understood unless you are in that situation.
And ever since I stepped behind my first pulpit in January of 1981 there have been people in my congregations who have dealt with that issue on a daily basis. It wasn’t some abstract reality it was life for them. Sometimes it has been a believing husband and an unbelieving wife, but more often it is a believing wife and a husband who either doesn’t believe or isn’t as passionate about his personal faith.
So, what happens when one partner in a marriage believes and follows Christ and the other one doesn't? Or is it even an issue?
Let’s start with 2 Corinthians 6:14 Don’t team up with those who are unbelievers. Or as it’s said in the NKJV 2 Corinthians 6:14 NKJV Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?
It’s here we have The Warning This is the go-to verse when we are warning our kids about dating non-believers, which is sometimes called missionary dating or evangelistic dating. You know the concept of “Maybe they don’t believe right now but if it’s really love they will come to believe”
But the prophet Amos kind of summed it up when he asked the question, Amos 3:3 Can two people walk together without agreeing on the direction? Which of course was a rhetorical question and the answer is obviously “no”.
Now to be fair, 2 Corinthians 6:14 isn’t specifically about marriage, although it’s often treated as if it is.
While “don’t team up with those who are unbelievers” might make more sense in 2018, “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers.” Is a more accurate translation.
This is, of course, is an agricultural reference, which we don’t get, but 2000 years ago or even today, in an agricultural society those who yoked animals together would understand.
There’s even a reference in the Old Testament law that says Deuteronomy 22:10 NIV Do not plow with an ox and a donkey yoked together.
And it was a practical law, donkeys and oxen were different in strength and temperament and so it was a recipe for disaster to expect them to work as a team.
This scripture doesn’t specifically have to do with marriage as much as it does relationships, such as business partnerships or political alliances, but really our marriages are probably the greatest relationship in our lives and this scripture warns about the conflicts that this will bring.
Later in the chapter, there are some guidelines for a woman to remarry if she is widowed and it says, 1 Corinthians 7:39 A wife is bound to her husband as long as he lives. If her husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, but only if he loves the Lord.
So, I would suspect that if Paul’s preference for those who were widowed to marry within the faith that probably crosses over to everyone. And there are some very practical reasons for that.